So how does Illinois basketball shoot 13% in a half, and win a NCAA Tourney game? Not just win, but win 57-49, almost double digits over #10 seed Colorado. The old cliche was "tale of two halves" was never more apt and it was a "strange game" as Illinois basketball coach John Groce said.
"As I said at the beginning, this team, it's been a fun team to coach, an interesting team. They found ways in a lot of different situations where their backs have been against the wall and today was another prime example of that," Groce said.
The Illini couldn't find their shot for almost twelve minutes of the second half, playing one of the worst halves you'll ever see in an NCAA Tournament game. This following a half in which Illinois basketball played as great a half as you'll see in the big dance.
So how did you get such an even bi-polar game? Schizophrenic or "split brain," as it's called. That's why it's "March madness" not March sanity. Illinois won in spite of a 23-0 run against them.
Illinois basketball saw their 16 point second half lead melt into a 5 point deficit. However, Illinois ended the last 9:28 of regulation on a 16-5 run. This trip to Austin, Texas was much better for the Illini than their last visit to the Lone Star state capitol. The Illini lost as a #3 seed to #14 Dayton in 1991. This was also the first win for Illinois basketball as a #7 seed in school history.
"It was an odd game. Again, give them a lot of credit. I thought we played really well at both ends in the first half. Maybe as complete a half as we have played in a while. It was really encouraging," Groce said.
"Then to start the second half I didn't think our defense was quite as good at the start. The second half, I thought our offense was good again, but we didn't make shots. And then they made the run and then that's when I thought our offense sputtered a little bit."
Paul M. Banks is the owner of The Sports Bank.net, an author and regular contributor to MSN, Fox Sports , Chicago Now, Walter Football.com and Yardbarker. Banks has appeared on Comcast SportsNet and the History Channel, as well as Clear Channel, ESPN and CBS radio all over the world. President Barack Obama follows him on Twitter (@PaulMBanks)
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